Hundreds turn out for Indio youth conference

Through art, lecture and games, conference teaches at-risk children leadership skills

INDIO, Calif. - Nearly 200 valley kids, ranging from 4 years old to 18, teamed up in Indio on Saturday to learn how to handle challenging issues they face everyday at the Angel Light Academy's Leadership Conference at Van Buren Elementary School.

Organizers said the two-day conference focuses on all aspects of leadership including patience and team building, while tackling issues like gossip, anxiety, gangs, and everything from cyber-bullying to problem solving.

"Taking leadership in school, in the community, and in my family ... problem solving, I didn't know how to that," said Sergio Torres, an 11th-grader.

Taught through lectures, games, dance, and music, Erica Bailey, the vice president of ALA, said the angel leadership traits are about building self-esteem and confidence in at-risk youth.

"It gives them a chance to take action in their lives in a lot of areas they feel they can't do anything," said Bailey.

Fifth grader Arissa Avila said she's learning a lot.

"Trying to help other kids in school that need help and how to better my education. I want to be a biologist or an actor," said Arissa.

One way the students work on communicating and dealing with their emotions is simply by tossing a ball. For example, which ever word their thumb landed on, like the word "afraid," they would talk about a time they felt that emotion.

"I could definitely use some improvement in calming down and listening and seeing other points of views," said 11th-grader, Madison Aery.

Many students said they hope they can improve on finding solutions to their problems while helping others along the way.

"The next thing you know the whole world can be an angel," said Arissa.

The conference runs through Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m. (registration at 8 a.m.) A $40 donation is suggested.

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